In the previous generations and in this present time there is an old saying, “It ain’t what it used to be.” How true. There are more days behind us than in front of us.

As for myself, I now stand in the doorway of the old-timer class. I remember wide open spaces, wrinkled faces. The good old days are mostly memories, and most of the original old timers have passed on.

I always enjoyed talking to the timers and never missed the chance to do so. All across Goliad and Refugio counties are the big outfits, ranches, a prime example of wide-open spaces.

Now here’s where you find the backbone of the ranching culture, the cowboy, in all shapes and sizes, all creeds and colors, both young and old. 

Now the old ones have the best stories. Oh yeah, they seen it all, they done it all. They have been in the saddle since they were little enough to walk under a mule’s belly. Wisdom, wit, philosophy, just a different way of looking at things. But they all tell you; there’s only one way to look at a cow, work, all day long.

When they were on horseback hard at work they seemed to be knights of blue denim and whether the setting of the sun meant another long day. Supper, a few beers, a few smokes. Then they slept dreaming of a silver inlaid saddle, pretty girls and payday. Come morning they were off before the sun. Away they went across the land, maybe out on the prairie around the working pens or out into “El Monte,” the brush pastures.

The pasture, it nurtured them, it gave them a sense of nobleness and pride. And so the setting sun was setting on the glory days of the old cowhands. They know that one day age would have its way. No regrets of a life magnificently lived. No regrets; even the bad days are chalked up as well worth living through.

The lines in their faces tell the story of growing old in the ranching culture, here in the Coastal Bend Region of Texas.

Finally, the Master calls, one by one in their own way, ride off to meet their maker. Most churches tell us when we cross over, we’re with the angels and saints with our bodies fully restored. To a cowboy, heaven means that big working pen in the sky and in cowboy heaven you get to see the boss every day, if he made it.

Those old-timers, we miss them, but don’t worry they’ll stay busy, the ranch in heaven is like the endless Texas sky. If you ever poke around that San Antone River bottom their voices still linger in the wind; they’re talking about there’s 20 or 30 strays across the creek yet.

They’re talking about some old cowboy and his old horse. Well, it turns out their work is never done.

Michael Martinez, Goliad